World U20s 2015: New Zealand make four changes for France semi
Baby Blacks reshuffle backline for clash in Calvisano as they look to win their first final since 2011
Scott Robertson has made four changes to his New Zealand starting XV for the World Rugby U20 Championship semi-final with France on Monday.
The Baby Blacks head coach has brought in Chiefs back Anton Lienert-Brown at outside centre, prompting a backline reshuffle that sees Jack Goodhue move to the right wing in place of Vincent Tavae-Aso, who drops to the bench.
We want to play rugby, we want to create space, we want use our width and we want to use our speed. We believe we have a game plan that will get us through to the world cup final.
Blues winger Tevita Li continues on the left wing with Mitchell Hunt, who started the tournament at outside-half, brought in at full-back in place of George Bridge, who also drops to the bench.
TJ Faiane comes in at inside centre in place of Nathanial Apa, who drops out of the match-day 23, while Hurricanes versatile back Otere Black continues at outside-half with Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi continuing at scrum-half.
Up front, the only change comes in the front row as Hawke’s Bay’s Ricky Riccitelli starts at loosehead prop in place of Isileli Tu’ungafasi, who drops to the bench.
“We believe we’ve got the 15 that’s performed and taken the opportunity,” Robertson said.
“We’ve got a little bit of continuity in our play and also welcome back Anton Lienert-Brown, who’s been in phenomenal form playing Super Rugby. Jack Goodhue moves to the wing to accommodate him.
“We’ve played a lot of football and we’ve created a lot of opportunities, but a lot of our errors have been handling mistakes through trying to force those passes.
“The errors can compound and then we put pressure on ourselves.
“The other teams play those very territory-based game plans and you can see that in the way they drive line-outs. We can just end up putting pressure back on ourselves by making errors, so we’re just trying to get the balance right.
“We want to play rugby, we want to create space, we want use our width and we want to use our speed. We believe we have a game plan that will get us through to the world cup final.”
New Zealand finished top of Pool C with three wins from their three matches, but they have yet to find their best form, starting slowly and making too many errors.
But Robertson admits he was pleased to see improvements made in their 25-3 win over Ireland in their final pool match last Wednesday.
“There were definitely some gains around our game management,” Robertson added.
“We haven’t started well this whole tournament, not through lack of trying. We’ve tried to make the adjustments so we can put that right.
“The big thing for us is we’re playing test football and being in the mindset that everyone tends to play their best game of rugby against us.
“We played more conservative rugby, and tactically we were a bit more savvy around how we played on the field.
“I thought our defence was really strong and obviously they didn’t cross our line.
“We made 13 line breaks and Ireland only made three and that’s a big positive. We will still need to focus on our execution, so we can continue to convert those opportunities into points.
“We haven’t dealt with the rolling maul that well, so this week we’ve worked really hard on defending those maul tries.
The Baby Blacks have not won the title since 2011, which was also held in Italy, losing at the semi-final stages to South Africa (2014) and England (2013), while they lost the 2012 final to South Africa in Newlands.
And Robertson expects their French opposition to pose further problems for his side at the set-piece, an area that New Zealand have struggled with in the pool stages.
“We expect a really strong disruptive French scrum,” he said.
“It’s an area that we’ve worked on and we’ve experienced some really good scrums in our games so far, however our line-outs are a continual work-on for us.
“The French can be emotional and very physical. You can’t help but have at the back of your mind that they’ve got a great history against us.
“We’ve addressed that as much as we can, creating an awareness for our young men in the team in what to expect, and for us to actually impose ourselves right from the start.
“I believe we’ve got ourselves into a good mental space and our expectations of what we will face are clear.”
New Zealand U20: Mitchell Hunt (Auckland); Jack Goodhue (Canterbury), Anton Lienert-Brown (Waikato), TJ Faiane (Auckland), Tevita Li (North Harbour); Otere Black (Manawatu), Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (Taranaki); Ricky Riccitelli (Hawke’s Bay), Liam Polwart (Auckland), Atunaisa Moli (Waikato), Joshua Goodhue (Canterbury), Hamish Dalzell (Canterbury), James Blackwell (Wellington), Blake Gibson (Auckland), Akira Ioane (Auckland).
Replacements: Steven Misa (Waikato), Isileli Tu’ungafasi (Auckland), Tau Koloamatangi (Waikato), Mitchell Dunshea (Canterbury), Henry Stowers (Wellington); Harrison Levien (Waikato), Vincent Tavae-Aso (Auckland), George Bridge (Canterbury).
France U20: Thomas Ramos (Toulouse); Alexandre Pilati (Bordeaux-Begles), Damian Penaud (Clermont Auvergne), Eliott Roudil (La Rochelle), Lucas Blanc (Bordeaux-Begles); Lucas Meret (Bordeaux-Begles), Anthony Meric (Toulon); Thibault Estorge (Clermont), Julien Marchand (Toulouse), Clement Castets (Montpellier), Tristan Labouteley (Montpellier), Mathieu Tanguy (La Rochelle), Sekou Macalou (Massy), Fabien Sanconnie (Brive), Lucas Bachelier (Perpignan, captain).
Replacements: Camille Chat (Racing Metro), Thierry Paiva (Bordeaux-Begles), Quentin Bethune (Agen), Julien Delannoy (Montpellier), Judicaël Cancoriet (Massy), Gauthier Doubrere (Auch), Thomas Fortunel (Montauban), Arthur Bonneval (Toulouse).